Kahne Wins the Crashfest 500

3/18/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Just as expected, the drivers put on a show at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Food City 500 trophy belongs to Kasey Kahne. Kahne won his first race of the season as well as first career race at Bristol. Kahne finished runner up to Matt Kenseth last week at Vegas after having the dominant car, but the real race winner might have been wrecked out of the race with nearly 100 laps to go.

Jeff Gordon was leading the race and facing mounting pressure from Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon’s pit crew decided to take left side tires only when the rest of the field took four tries. Jeff Gordon’s right side tires had 154 laps on them and on lap 391 as he sailed into turn 3, his right rear tire cut and sent him hard into the wall. Gordon would end up collecting Matt Kenseth, as he was right on his back bumper at the time. Many will question why Gordon’s team put him out there for so long as tire failure had been a noteworthy issue throughout the day.  Kenseth had a great car and it looked as if he was a serious threat for winning back to back races and was a participant of unfortunate luck.

Matt Kenseth was one of the only drivers who could consistently drive the bottom lane of the track with success. I continue to reference the generation six car as a test for the sport.  Nascar is hoping we see good racing, but it has been a challenge for drivers when it comes to these shorter tracks. Bristol proved to us today that drivers preferred one lane and that was the top. This is due to the newly designed progressive banking that was reconfigured for this year.

They call it “progressive” because the degrees of banking increase from bottom to top. Tracks like Phoenix and Las Vegas feature this style of banking. Tracks that get a reconfiguration packages usually end up with progressive banking as it supposedly allows for more passing. As of 2013, the bottom lane at Bristol is 26 degrees and the top features 30 degrees of banking. Before the reconfiguration  Bristol had 36 degrees of banking from top to bottom. Instead of having to bump a driver out of the way, drivers are supposed to be able to pass on the top or the bottom. Ironically now they are only running the top line, something we won’t see next week at California.

California will yield better racing than the short tracks. The generation six car performed much better at Las Vegas, so I have a good feeling we will see more passing. It seems as if only a few drivers have really grasped the generation six car early in the season. Look for Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to be front runners at California. I could be wrong though, as there have been four different winners in four races this season!

View of Auto Club Speedway in California from a jet fighter!

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